Clustering is a key technique to achieve maximum fault tolerance. A cluster is a collection of computer systems responsible for running a shared set of applications and services. The systems in the cluster are interconnected through hardware and software in such a way that in case any component in the cluster stops functioning, the workload will "failover" to, or be assumed by, another system in the cluster without a disruption of service.
Failover clustering clearly has an advantage in increasing network availability in the case of a hardware breakdown, but it also allows non-disruptive system maintenance for environments that have no time window when key applications such as email or web commerce can be taken offline without hurting business. For geographically dispersed environments, multi-site clustering provides insurance against natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.
The Enterprise and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2008 included significant improvements in failover clustering such as easier deployment, management, and migration; enhanced support for multi-site clusters; improved security architecture and quorum models; stronger authentication and encryption; and more efficient tools for backup and recovery. Windows Server 2008 R2 offers even more advanced support for clustering through the addition of features that make clusters more secure, more available, and easier to manage. Major clustering improvements in Windows Server 2008 R2 include Live Migration support through Cluster Shared Volumes, enhanced support for IPsec security, and expanded cluster storage.
Progent offers a full range of Windows Server 2008 Server consulting services and Windows Server 2008 R2 expertise and can assist businesses of any size to maintain and troubleshoot failover clusters powered by Windows Server 2008. If you are considering an upgrade to Windows Server 2016, Progent can provide Windows Server 2016 failover clustering consulting to maximize the availability and performance of your system.
New and Improved Features of Windows Server 2008 Failover Clustering
The failover clustering capabilities incorporated into Microsoft Windows 2008 Server represents more than a decade of Microsoft's experience in developing clustering technology. The Enterprise and Datacenter Editions of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 offer a number of new clustering services and capabilities including:
More Convenient Management Interfaces
Windows Server 2008 includes Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0, a new easy-to-use interface for controlling network resources. The new Failover Cluster Administration Console is task oriented rather than cluster resource oriented. To make a file share highly available, for example, the administrator no longer has to create a group, a disk resource, an IP address resource, Network Name, configure IsAlive/LookAlive, configure preferred services, and set dependencies. Instead, the wizard simply asks for the Network Name. You do not necessarily need to assign an IP address because Windows Server 2008 failover clustering now supports DHCP.
Windows Server 2008 also supports remote management via the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT). You can manage multiple clusters throughout the organization from a single MMC. Windows Server 2008 Failover Clusters are also fully scriptable with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).
Built-in Cluster Validate Tool
Windows Server 2008 clustering includes a cluster Validate Tool, an expanded and integrated version of the ClusPrep tool released for Windows Server 2003 server clustering. As a part of the cluster configuration process, Validate runs a set of tests to determine whether the selected servers, cluster networks, and storage meet the requirements for failover clustering. Validate performs an inventory that includes BIOS information, operating systems, adapters, drivers and software updates; verifies cluster topology for redundancy; checks IP configuration details; and makes sure that storage can correctly handle simulated cluster actions. The Validate Tool helps prevents configuration errors, which is one of the most common problems encountered in failover clusters.
Support for Windows Server 2008 Server Core
Windows Server 2008 offers a Server Core installation option that supports failover clustering and provides a bare-bones environment for running distinct server roles. By limiting the services that need to be maintained and updated, this minimalist installation reduces support and management expense and enhances security by shrinking the server's attack surface. Server Core supports a variety of important roles including DHCP server, file services, print services, DNS server, Active Directory Domain Services, streaming media services, and Windows Server 2008 virtualization.
Better Storage and Backup Support
Improvements in storage and backup offer increased stability and availability for failover clusters. Support for both Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table (GPT) disks allows the creation of disks greater than 2 terabytes. Built-in logic initiates self healing automatically as long as the system can find either the disk signature in the Master Boot Record or the SCSI inquiry page 0x83 data (VPD).
Support for Storage Area Networking (SAN) solutions is improved for storage hardware that supports SCSI-3 SPC3Ėcompliant SCSI commands for persistent reservation/release. All multi-path solutions are Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO). The Device Specific Module (DSM) provided by the storage vendor is responsible for sending PR registration information down each path to the storage system. Closer integration with Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) makes the backup process easier. Failover clustering in Windows Server 2008 has its own VSS.
With Windows Server 2008, x64-based failover clusters support up to 16 nodes in a single cluster, as opposed to the maximum of 8 nodes in Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2008 failover clusters also now support GPT disks, which use the GUID partition table (GPT) disk partitioning system. A GPT disk allows up to 128 primary partitions and a much larger volume size. In comparison, MBR disks can support up to four primary partitions and a volume size limit of up to 2 terabytes. For greater reliability, GPT disks offer replication and cyclical redundancy check (CRC) protection of the partition table. The increased number of nodes plus support for GPT disks dramatically extends the scalability of larger volumes in cluster environments.
A New Quorum Model
Windows Server 2008 introduces a new failover clustering quorum model that incorporates a combination of Microsoft's earlier shared disk and majority node set models. In Windows Server 2008 failover clustering there are now four ways to establish a quorum:
The quorum mechanism in Windows Server 2008 no longer requires a shared storage resource for the cluster to function. Quorum now refers to a number of votes which must equate to a majority of nodes. All nodes and disk resources have a vote. This avoids failure points in the old model, which required the disk to be available at all times so that disk failure meant cluster failure.
- No Majority Ė Disk Only (same as Windows Server 2003 shared disk quorum)
- Node Majority (same as the Windows Server 2003 majority node set)
- Node and Disk Majority
- Node and File Share Majority
An Improved Security Model
Windows Server 2008 failover clustering incorporates a new security model that enhances its security and dependability. Changes include:
- Elimination of the need for a domain user account for the Cluster Service Account (CSA)
- Better logging and event tracing
- Transition from unsecure datagram remote procedure call (RPC) communications to TCP-based RPC communications
- Default enabling Kerberos authentication on all cluster network name resources
- The ability to audit access to the cluster service via either the Failover Cluster Management snap-in or the cluster command-line interface
- Ability to secure Inter-Cluster communications.
New Networking Capabilities and More Flexible Dependencies
Windows Server 2008 failover clustering includes a new networking model. Major improvements include:
Administrators no longer have to stretch virtual local area networks across the wide area network to support geographically dispersed servers on different subnets. Failover cluster nodes can now be located on different subnets. Individual cluster nodes can be placed on separate, routed networks, which allows IP Address and Network Name resources to come online when services and applications fail over to remote nodes.
- Enhanced support for geographically distributed networks
- The ability to place cluster nodes on different networks
- The ability to use DHCP server to assign IP addresses to cluster interfaces
- Improvements in the cluster heartbeat mechanism
- Support for IPv6
Cluster IP address resources can now get their addressing from DHCP servers as well as from static entries. The cluster heartbeat mechanism has moved from a UDP broadcast health checking mechanism to a UDP unicast communication that it uses a Ping-like Request-Reply process. This allows better security and more reliable packet sequence numbering. Windows Server 2008 supports IPv6 IP Address resources and IPv4 IP Address resources either alone or in combination in a cluster. Clustering also supports 6-4 and Intra-site Automatic Tunneling Addressing Protocol (ISATAP).
Enhancements to Failover Clustering In Windows Server 2008 R2
Major enhancements to Failover Clustering available with Windows Server 2008 R2 include:
For more details about the improved Failover Clustering support provided by Windows Server 2008 R2, visit Progent's Consulting Services for Windows Server 2008 R2.
- Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV) with dynamic I/O redirection
- Geographically dispersed clustering for immunity from natural disasters
- Easier setup and migration through the new Best Practices Analyzer
- Redundant Quorum Resource to eliminate single-point failure for the cluster quorum
- Improved security through support for IPsec security between client and cluster nodes
- Supports for GPT disks that exceed 2 terabytes in capacity
How Progent Can Help You Benefit from Microsoft's Failover Clustering
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can help you evaluate the business benefits of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 failover clustering, set up pilot programs to validate performance and compatibility for your key workloads, develop and execute a cost-effective deployment plan, train your IT staff to manage your clustering environment, and provide ongoing consulting and technical support services remotely or at your site. Progent can also provide comprehensive Help Desk services.
Progent's service professionals can also help you migrate from Windows Server 2003 cluster nodes. This migration requires experience because these two types of nodes cannot share the same cluster, which eliminates a rolling migration.
If you currently have a clustering environment based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and are considering a move to Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows Server 2016, Progent can help you plan and carry out a Windows Server 2012 R2 failover clustering upgrade or create a Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery solution.
Progent's CISM, CISA, GIAC, CISSP, and CRISC certified security engineers can assess the protection offered by your cluster environment and can recommend and implement affordable improvements. Progent's security experts can also help you design, document, and test business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
Additional Zero-Downtime Technologies Supported by Progent
Progent's certified consulting experts can assist your company to build an efficient, fault-tolerant IT architecture that addresses major challenges encompassing a wide range of networking technologies and processes such as:
Why Choose Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning Solutions?
Business Continuity Planning
Progent's business continuity engineers can show you how to design a business continuity strategy in order to restore network functionality in the event of an information network disaster. Progent can help you to create a complete disaster recovery strategy that includes scheduled disaster recovery assessments and testing. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-authorized engineers can also help you create an affordable, high-availability network solution that addresses reliability issues covering a broad range of network technologies and procedures. To read more, see Business Continuity Expertise.
Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services from Progent offer small and medium-sized organizations an affordable and fully managed solution for reliable backup/disaster recovery. For a low monthly price, ProSight DPS automates and monitors your backup activities and enables rapid recovery of critical data, applications and virtual machines that have become unavailable or corrupted as a result of component failures, software bugs, disasters, human mistakes, or malicious attacks such as ransomware. ProSight Data Protection Services can help you protect, recover and restore files, folders, apps, system images/, as well as Hyper-V and VMware virtual machine images/. Important data can be backed up on the cloud, to a local device, or mirrored to both. Progent's backup and recovery specialists can deliver world-class expertise to configure ProSight DPS to to comply with government and industry regulatory requirements like HIPPA, FIRPA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, when necessary, can assist you to restore your critical data. Read more about ProSight DPS Managed Cloud Backup and Recovery.
Microsoft Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery consultants can assist you to design a disaster recovery solution based on Microsoft's cloud-tested Failover Clustering technologies such as Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade for non-disruptive migration to Windows Server 2016, Storage Replica for crash-consistent recovery, Storage Spaces Direct for high-performance network-attached storage using commodity hardware, VM Load Balancing for enhancing the performance and fault-tolerance of Failover Clusters while minimizing capital investment and management overhead, and Cloud Witness for fast, economical creation of a failover cluster quorum arbitration point. To read more, visit Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery Expertise.
Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Failover Clustering
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 brought world-class fault tolerance and system recovery to Microsoft's clustering solution. Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this technology and provides important enhancements that offer more extensibility, non-stop storage availability for server applications, easier management, quicker automatic failover, and additional options for architecting failover clusters. To find out more, go to Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Clustering Migration and Support.
VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is an extension to VMware vCenter that allows you to orchestrate, automate and test a repeatable workflow for restoring services rapidly after a breakdown. SRM provides centrally controlled and automated disaster recovery, application mobility, plus transparent site relocation, failback and re-protect. SRM also supports non-disruptive testing for disaster recovery, updates and patches and can generate reports to verify complete service restoration, validate SLAs and demonstrate disaster recovery compliance. Progent offers the support of a VCDX certified VMware SRM consulting expert to help your organization to design, configure, test and manage a DR system based on VMware SRM.
NetApp MetroCluster High Availability and Disaster Recovery Technology
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery platform that combines array-based storage clustering with synchronous replication to provide rapid, zero data loss disaster recovery (DR) between sites located up to 300km apart. Progent offers online or on-premises access to a certified NetApp MetroCluster expert who can assist you to plan, configure, administer, update, test and repair a disaster recovery solution built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can assist you to choose an architecture for your MetroCluster deployment that aligns with your functional requirements and IT budget. Progent can ensure you adhere to leading practices for installing your MetroCluster solution by delivering guidance with procedures like assigning disk pools and shelf IDs, determining aggregate and plexes layout, setting up volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, installing Cisco and Brocade switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a TCP/IP configuration replication network between your peered clusters, and verifying your MetroCluster DR system to prove compliance with information assurance standards and government requirements.
Network Load Balancing
Progent provides high availability load balancing support that addresses network load balancing, load balanced programs, LAN/WAN backbone routing, and content dispatching products such as Cisco Content Engine. Non-stop load balancing products for which Progent can provide consulting services include Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Metaframe and Presentation Server, Cisco CSS, Cisco Content Engine and ACNS, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. To read more, visit High Availability Load Balancing.
Progent's Data Center professionals can show you how to select high availability data centers that meet the particular requirements of your business. Fault tolerant co-location sites are particularly attractive to small and mid-size companies because of their affordability and simplified logistics compared to pursuing a do-it-yourself approach. Trying to build an on-site data center with even a basic degree of fault tolerance is too costly for most small businesses. Progent can show you how to reap all the benefits of non-stop colocation facilities by providing a complete range of consulting and maintenance services. For more information, see Non-stop Colocation Expertise.
High-Availability Interoffice Connectivity
Progentís branch office connection engineers can help companies achieve zero-downtime branch office connections through redundant system architectures featuring automatic failover. Progentís Cisco-certified CCIE network engineers can design and implement fault-tolerant Inter-office connections supported by zero-downtime EIGRP network routers or zero-downtime OSPF deployment of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how redundant connectivity and automatic fail-over offers economical 24x7 interoffice networking. For details, visit Fault Tolerant Interoffice Connectivity.
Fault Tolerant Internet Connections
Progent's Cisco-certified network engineers can show you how to build an economical, high availability Internet configuration solution that can deliver non-stop Internet connectivity via a wide range of high availability Internet network solutions including non-stop BGP, automatic fail-over, and redundant ISPs. Progent can provide CCIE engineers to help you apply the latest techniques for high availability Internet connectivity to build an economical, fully redundant Internet network with automatic failover and other capabilities to deliver zero-downtime Internet availability. To read more, visit 24x7 Internet Access Solutions.
Backup and Restore Technology Consulting and Support Services
Progent can provide economical remote access to engineers with expertise in a wide array of utilities and services that deliver solutions for backing up Windows, Mac, and Linux/UNIX servers and workstations as well as notebooks and handhelds. Progent offers expertise for leading data protection platforms such as Acronis, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist, CrashPlan PRO, Double-Take Software, Mozy, Retrospect for Macintosh, Apple Time Machine, vSphere Data Protection, and Solaris FLARs. Progent's consultants can assist you to implement, enhance, or troubleshoot backup/restore solutions for a range of topologies such as on-premises, remote, cloud, or a mix. To read more, visit Backup and Recovery Technology Expertise.
System Center Data Protection Manager Backup and Recovery Consultants
Progent's certified System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) engineers can help you to develop a practical business continuity strategy, design a cost-effective high-availability IT architecture, configure a System Center Data Protection Manager-powered backup and recovery system, comprehensively validate your DPM system, educate your administrative staff or regular service providers how to maintain Microsoft SCDPM, or provide extensive information technology support outsourcing such as remote hosting of System Center Data Protection Manager machines in Progent's secure data center. To find out more, visit Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager Expertise.
Barracuda Backup On-premises and Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is an affordable, subscription-based backup and disaster recovery service for small and mid-size businesses. A Barracuda Backup deployment can incorporate a custom-designed hardware appliance manufactured by Barracuda or a software-based appliance with similar functionality but which utilizes your own storage hardware. Barracuda Backup protects vital company data generated on-premises, at one or more remote sites, or in the cloud. For disaster recovery, you can replicate data to the Barracuda Cloud, to Amazon Web Services (AWS), or to any site with a Barracuda appliance. Progent is a Barracuda partner and Progent's Barracuda Backup consultants can provide a broad range of consulting services to help you to plan, configure, manage and repair a BDR solution built on Barracuda technology. For more information, see Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consulting and management.
Altaro VM Backup Solutions for Data Protection and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup provides small organizations a reliable and affordable platform for backing up and recovering Hyper-V and VMware-powered virtual machines (VMs). Altaro VM Backup can be used for local, remote, multi-site, and cloud environments and also enables low-cost cloud backup to Microsoft Azure storage. Top capabilities include state-of-the-art Augmented Inline Deduplication to reduce backup storage requirements, Continuous Data Protection with backup intervals as little as five minutes for reducing your Recovery Point Objective, military-grade encryption, item-level restore capability for individual files and emails, support for Windows Server Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and vCenter for managing large-scale environments, and the ability to leverage Microsoft VSS technology to back up online VMs without downtime. Progent is a certified Altaro partner and offers a wide range of consulting services to assist you to design, deploy, optimize and troubleshoot a backup/restore solution powered by Altaro VM Backup software. For more information, see Altaro VM Backup Consulting.
Consulting Services Double-Take Software for Backup and Recovery
Double-Take Software offers a family of tools intended to deliver small and midsize businesses a range of affordable alternatives for backing up and restoring vital workloads such as Exchange, SQL Server, RIM Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís business continuity planning consultants have extensive backgrounds integrating Double-Take Software technology into small business IT networks to achieve a high level of availability and business continuity capability at an affordable price. To learn more, visit Consulting for Double-Take Software for Backup.
CRISC-qualified IT Risk Mitigation
The CRISC certification program was established by ISACA in 2010 to validate a consultant's ability to design, deploy, and maintain information system controls to mitigate network risk. Progent offers the expertise of a CRISC-certified engineer to assist your company to create and carry out a business continuity strategy based on leading practices promoted by CRISC and crafted to match your company's risk tolerance, business objectives, and budgetary guidelines. To find out more, go to CRISC-certified network risk control experts.
Because Progent is a Microsoft Certified Partner and offers specialized application consulting for a broad range of business software programs, Progent is able to help clients to arrive at efficient IT solutions that maximize the business value of your IT network. As a Registered Partner for Cisco, Progent offers the support of qualified engineers and specialists with experience in architecting, installing and maintaining networking environments based on Cisco products. The depth of Progent's technical know-how and Progent's appreciation for the requirements of small businesses make Progent the ideal partner for building and running an affordable, fault-tolerant information system.
How You Can Get in Touch with Progent's Experts for Fault Tolerant Network Support
If you wish to ask Progent about technical expertise for non-stop computing, phone 1-800-993-9400 or see Contact Progent.